On the one hand, a tax audit can be very scary for an individual. A tax audit means you could lose a lot of money; you may have to spend lots of time working with investigators to clear up the matter; and you fear how it could impact over aspects of your life.

On the other hand, though, a tax audit merely has this reputation -- when, actually, about 25 percent of audits impact the individual in no way. The Internal Revenue Service looks things over, decides no action needs to be taken and moves on.

For the other 75 percent, these individuals need to prepare for a potentially-frustrating process of the IRS combing through their finances. However, even for these people there is hope. An audit can be expedited by (and your case can be strengthened by) having all of your financial documents organized and prepared, and by bringing in an attorney to help you make your case.

So how does anyone get to the point of getting audited by the IRS? Well, the conventional answer is "they lied on their taxes." While that is more or less true, it is a bit more complicated than that. The IRS does not look over every tax filing it gets. That would take hundreds of thousands of man hours to perform. Instead, they use a computer system to grade tax filings -- and if your filing deviates too far from the national average, you are marked for a potential audit.

No one knows exactly how the system works, nor do we know exact criteria that the IRS looks for when an audit is enacted. But, a few common beliefs about the system are that large amounts of deductions that do not coincide with your income level; a vast number of dependants that, again, do not mesh with your income; and a change of address without noting a sale or property (if you have property) can send you down the audit path.

Source: CBS News, "What triggers an IRS tax audit?," Ray Martin, March 7, 2013